This is my manifesto for this blog… not only is it about how and why I started this blog, it’s also the first thing I ever wrote here (Nov., 2006), and the first thing I ever wrote directly and honestly about the disease and my recovery.
“[Manic Depression] is a disease, our brains are not capable of certain tasks, like turning emotions off, which leads to even more devastating problems like a lack of reasoning between right and wrong when it comes to our own bodies.”
“There’s nothing amorphous about having no legs, or having no use of my legs. You’re a cripple. You sit for the rest of your life. You will never walk again. People ask “what’s wrong” and you point to the obvious. How do you answer when someone asks “what’s wrong, sunshine? Are you not feeling well today?” Do you point to your head and shrug your shoulders?”
I’ve had to negotiate between the trauma’s of my life to determine who I am. Every time I’ve been kicked down to the ground I’ve had to decide whether or not to get up, and what the consequences were of staying down. I’m not entirely sure at this point but I believe I’ve stayed down on at least a few occasions, at least until getting up was safe. I am not a morose loner, although I sometimes seem that way to lazy eyes. At some point I believe I was seen. I have won awards for writing; I have had two famous poets tell me to publish; I have a book deal; I have post-traumatic stress disorder and I was diagnosed with Manic Depression in 1988. I have spent many hours on the other side of the railing, but I’ve always come back. The question is, can surviving and soul-searching be done at the same time? The answer is: I’m running like a broken man.
This is what I want to tell people: ‘My life is easy in your head.’ Sometimes I sleep for hours just to pass the time, because I’m too depressed to move. Sometimes I stay awake for 36 or 48 hours just because I can’t stop. I have spent exactly half of my life trapped in the trunk of a car. There have been years where I could not move.
There is only one step a Manic Depressive can make to get better: make every sacrifice to take the pills.
People die. People have to cope with that person’s death. That’s life. Everybody goes through it, everybody will go through it again, and again and possibly again. People with the Disease we have do not have the capacity to deal with losses. We react differently to everything. We’re too happy, we’re too melancholy, always we’re too much. The pills restore that ability to regulate our emotions as Regular people have. Without that regulatory power we, Manic Depressives — you and I, can be crippled by day-to-day events. The wrong look from a teacher, the wrong word from a friend, the wrong feeling can tear us apart so completely that we spiral down into a depth of depression which should be unheard of. Being alone, or in a crowd of strangers or in the company of a friend or the hug of a Sister makes no difference whatsoever. As soon as that thought, that feeling, arises in our head we’re done.
And it’s the disease which puts that thought into our head. It’s the disease which makes that thought take over everything. It’s the disease which takes you from “I wonder why my friend didn’t call” to “I haven’t any friends at all”, it’s the disease which makes it rational to flow from sadness to loss to despair. You know that. So the only way to fight the Disease is to Fight the disease.
There’s nothing to take responsibility for, or over, except the pills. Why can’t you move today? It’s the disease. Why are you so tired that you sleep past important events, sleep for twenty hours? It’s the disease. It’s not your fault. People will blame you, they’ll make you feel responsible, you should have tried harder, you should have made an effort, you’re being antisocial and dark, why can’t you be more like your sister? And even if they don’t ask these questions, you will. But they can’t be answered, there are no answers, and you feel lost and responsible, which starts a spiral and you start telling yourself that dying is the answer, or at least showing people that you’re willing to die is the best way to MAKE THEM SHUT THE FUCK UP AND SEE WHAT’S GOING ON.
There are no answers, none, because they’re asking you the question and you’re NOT responsible. The disease is responsible. The disease turns grey to black, an event into a Tragedy, a question into an accusation. But you feel lost without an answer. Someone says, half mockingly, “well aren’t you Ms. Sunshine today” and you feel shame, shame that you can’t make the smile real. Shame that someone might be seeing your pain, and instead of understanding you receive mockery. They’ll tell you to take control of your life, walk the dog, get up earlier, get outside, as if the decisions to take part in physical and social activities were within your control.
But none of it is real, it’s all fake. None of it is within your control, it’s all out of control. None of it is you, it’s all the disease. And the only way to control the disease is to medicate yourself; is to do whatever it takes to make sure you take the fucking pills. Talking comes second. Talking is important, talk to someone who will listen and give feedback but not judgements. Don’t talk to friends, don’t talk to family. Friends and family, even if they’ve dealt with a friend or family member with Manic Depression in the past, have no understanding of the disease itself. They understand depression, they understand that if someone is depressed taking them for a car ride and talking things over will move that someone past their depression. But we’re NOT depressed, we’re not even Clinically Depressed. We’re Bi-Polar, Manic Depressive, Mentally Ill. This is a disease, our brains are not capable of certain tasks, like turning emotions off, which leads to even more devastating problems like a lack of reasoning between right and wrong when it comes to our own bodies. Friends and family can only grasp the basics of your Recovery: are you taking your pills? are you seeing a doctor regularly? are you getting outside at all? That’s it. All they need or want is Yes or No. Anything else requires Explanation, which you can’t do because you’ve only seen the disease from the inside out.
Maybe you saw a Law & Order episode, maybe you deciphered the lyrics to a Jimi Hendrix song. You have the experience, but not the knowledge. There are questions which only someone — a Good Doctor, can ask and — not answer — but give awareness to answers. There are things which only they, with their deep understanding of the disease, can understand and then impart that understanding to you:
You: “I only seriously thought of killing myself once this week.”
Doctor: “That’s sort of an improvement. Tell me what you mean about ‘seriously’ and about what brought you there.”
Friend/Family: “YOU THOUGHT ABOUT SUICIDE?”
Or maybe they lend that ‘all important ear of familial understanding’, which allows you to speak without saying anything. The points they interject will be well meaning, but meaningless. They will be trying to understand the disease through you, from someone who doesn’t understand.
There are times when I believe that being in a wheelchair would be easier. There’s nothing amorphous about having no legs, or having no use of my legs. You’re a cripple. You sit for the rest of your life. You will never walk again. People ask “what’s wrong” and you point to the obvious. How do you answer when someone asks “what’s wrong, sunshine? Are you not feeling well today?” Do you point to your head and shrug your shoulders? It requires an explanation. You have to stop and think: should I be glib? should I make something up? fake an excuse? do I tell them the Doctor says I’m Bi-Polar? what then? what if they ask a follow up question and I have to start explaining shit to them? You can’t just say “I’m a little depressed, and my brain chemistry doesn’t allow me to snap out of it like yours probably does. I’m not wired like you, or most likely anyone else in this room are, and you coming over here and making a point of my mood does not help me whatsoever, so could you please just fuck off.” Or, if you are rude, suddenly you’re in the position of having to make an apology.
You have to apologize for having a disease which causes you to have extreme mood swings. No one in a wheelchair, or with cancer, or with heart disease, ever has to apologize — or is made to feel like they must apologize — for being sick. But we do. Everyday for years — for a decade — for eighteen years I woke up and had to apologize for something to someone for a disease which was out of my control.
“I’m sorry I’m late for work.” “I’m sorry I missed our date.” “I’m sorry I haven’t been a good boyfriend.” “I’m sorry I seem like such a shiftless slob.”
“I’m sorry, but I have a disease which makes me depressed”. How many times have you told someone a variation of that one? Or maybe just: “I’m sorry, I can’t. I feel too depressed.” I’ve said that many times, to many people since 1989. “I’m sorry, I have a disease.” Why was I sorry? Why didn’t anyone tell me I shouldn’t feel ‘sorry’, that having a disease is not my fault? Because they, and I, had no understanding of what the disease was. What does “Bi-Polar” mean? What does manic-depression mean? Now tell me what “cancer” means. Tell me what Lou Gerhig’s Disease means.
Take the fucking pills, take them everyday. If you miss a dose, make damn sure you take the next one. If you miss two doses, take a dose as soon as that realization kicks in, if you miss three doses tell someone to make sure you take the next one: Understand that you’re in Trouble at this point. This is a disease which can be beaten into submission. There’ll be a cure within this decade, or at least better and more targeted treatments.
There is hope. And stop listening to the fucking Cure and Pink Floyd. They’ll fucking kill you.
I’m glad you said it, and you say it well.
I’m new to wordpress (about two days into it) and I too am bipolar and a writer. In the 90s I was hospitalized 6 times. My last hospitalization was in 1998.
Everyday I claw more life out of life.
I’ve had some success in publishing since I have been stable, and now I am a co-editor of a lit mag.
You’re welcome to read my blog “Orphans of dark and rain” I added your blog to my links.
Keep clawing and keep writing.
Widened perspectives on shifting realities allow the past to age and provide room for a future with an open door.
I resent that comment about the Cure.
As long as it’s their early stuff you’ll be okay, you know?
But Floyd, fair enough, I’ll give you that. Apart from Bike. How could that song not make someone smile? Even in the bowels of depression?
Hey, don’t get me wrong, I love The Cure. They’re great… at killing depressed people. First real concert I saw was Love & Rockets opening for The Cure during the Disintegration Tour. I’d still have the T-Shirt if my roommate hadn’t stolen it. I listened to “Dark Side Of The Moon” every night for… ever? And ever! I probably should have written: “and don’t listen to emo” or something, but I’ve never really been able to figure out what emo was. Although Hope has a decent tutorial:
when you’ve had enough:
The Cure don’t kill depressed people. Depression kills depressed people. You should know that.
I’m dead jealous that you got to the Disintegration Tour.
I would have enjoyed that. Not now though. Robert Smith just looks too old and fat and rich now to be that angst ridden.
Muse or Tom Yorke do it better.
My only regret in life was passing up the chance to see Nirvana while they were still playing student union gigs.
And don’t worry about the Emo tutorial. I have teenage children remember?
My particular favourites in that genre are BrightEyes and Imogen Heep.
Trust me, watch the tutorial… it’s really funny. For a few minutes, then you definitely need to watch “Ask A Ninja.” Really: askaninja.com, you will laugh for a week.
I think there’s a digital clock somewhere counting off how many people The Cure are personally responsible for killing. It’s slowed a little since Smith hit 345lbs, but it’s still going up. People don’t kill people, Robert Smith kills people. Seriously, he has an axe and an army of depressive clones who will do his bidding.
Okay. Yeah I admit it. My first suicide bid was attempted whilst listening to “The same deep water as you”. You may have a point. I always thought that was just me. You know like the Judas Priest case?
No really. Ask my friends. We spoke about this at length one night.
But I didn’t die.
So they’re obviously not THAT good at it.
And this comes from a man whose country spawned LEONARD COHEN?
Not speaking to you now.
Not till after I look at the Emo stuff since you are soooo insistant.
They’re not going to make me want to commint sidey-ways are they? Because I’m being good. I’m taking my pills and I feel quite up tonight and it would be a damn shame to spoil it…
No one dies while listening to Leonard. You’re too busy having sex with whoever was beside you when the song started. It’s a scientific fact: babies are made when Cohen is playing.
Judas Priest… man. That was like, when I was fifteen. I’m going out tomorrow and buy “Priest Live”. I can’t believe I forgot about Priest.
I’m doing a post at some point about the depressing stuff we surround ourselves with. It’s like we need to justify our feelings and behaviour so the eyeliner comes out, the wardrobe goes black, the nail polish… but, at the same time, it’s as if we force ourselves to be depressed even when the disease isn’t pushing us because it’s what’s expected… something. I haven’t quite worked it out in my tired head yet.
Ohmygod. Where you one of those eyeliner wearing dudes too? The ones who always stole all my black nail polish but never bought any of their own? I knew it. I thought I knew you from somewhere…
I don’t know. I did go through that phase. I guess I still do. Its just the music and the lyrics get more sophisticted as we age. I go the opposite with the clothes now though. On really shit days I force myself to wear something bright. But I still like to listen to the blues.
Sometimes to get through a dark night of the soul you have to move through it.
Ha! Listen to me…I’m philosophising now. And I’ve not even had a smoke since Saturday night.
The emo thing. Okay I checked it out. And I’m pretty sure that was one of my daughter’s friends. She looks just like that her anyway.
Try having a teenage daughter and both of you having PMT at the same time. There’s real angst.
The Ninja thing, will need to watch when I’m not so tired.
The quicktime player thing kept freezing. I need to get a new PC.
Away now to dig out some Cohen before Mr P gets in…
Wish me luck.
I never wore the makeup, but I felt like I should have been. I didn’t get my first mohawk until I was… 19?
Watch Ninja later: “Pirates Of The Caribbean” and “Pop Tech”. They’ll give you cramps.
I’m watching “Little Miss Sunshine” tonight. Steve Carell… he’s The Funny.
Pills pills pills….. I have been in these dark places, and go back often. Instead of polluting my body with Big Pharmasnacks, I have an organic diet and use herbal remedies like pot and valerian.
The hard part is that you have to actually deal with your situation and your issues. The pills always clouded that, so you are trying to search through the fog with misty goggles on.
There is a myth that pot clouds your thinking. That has not been my experience. I have found that it brought many things in my life into stark light. I have come to terms with a lot of things, and pot has been a help not a hinderance.
The pills almost killed me, and actually DID kill Christine for about 30 seconds back in 2001.
“There is hope. And stop listening to the fucking Cure and Pink Floyd. They’ll fucking kill you.”
Lol. So true. Took me years to realise I was making myself worse with the music I was listening to!
You have a great voice.
I am so bloody sick of saying I’m sorry.
(Reading this to extend the lecture since I managed to forget my depakote this morning)
I know, believe me I know… it’s not like “nothing’s our fault”, we do have responsibility in all of this, but forgetting our pills once in a while, or exhibiting the behaviours forced onto us by the disease, those aren’t our “fault”. And yet we’re always walking around like we let our family/friends/God down by being “us”. Some of that “forced guilt” can be the disease flaring its little evil head as well…
Forgetting is okay, it just means you have to set a pattern or a routine easy enough to remember tomorrow. An ex-girlfriend used to draw a circle on her thumb if she forgot her Pill. As far as I can tell it worked for her. Try putting the bottles in your shoes… or, decide what you’re wearing the night before and put them in your pants pocket.
It’ll work out… the fact that you’re remembering that you forgot on the same day you forgot is a good thing.
You know, I am having Issues right now with my mother, and how she fails to acknowledge the Disease, but I’ll expand more on that when I tackle your second interview question. But I think maybe I will get her to read this post of yours, because I’m not sure I could ever express all that you say any better.
I have every expectation that she will recoil, and say, “That person used the F-WORD! That person is vulgar! Omigod that person used the F-Word IN PUBLIC! ON THE INTERNET! Where their FAMILY might see!” but nevertheless maybe some of it might penetrate. We can only hope.
If it helps, you can let her know I’ve had doctors tell me they’re including pieces of this (and some of my other posts) in handouts to their recently diagnosed patients. Or you can let her know ribaldry is a vital part of the writing world.
If you honestly think anything I’ve written might help your family or friends to understand what you’re going through, or might help convince them there are more of Us than they might believe, please use what you want.
This blog site will help me stop meandering over a distinct and well-versed plan to “check-out”. I have exercised a variety of attempts; all which have led to failure or as some would say “an angel watches over you,” a fucking angel…all family and friends think I evade the responsibility to “stick with it” and that I make excuses when I do not sleep for weeks at a time; spend money on other people as I will help their peril; end up bankrupt and agonizingly depressed. Did I mention bi-polar is quite a marriage enhancer! Hoping this makes some kind of sense to any seasoned bi-polars– I am novice in the sense I have just come to accept that this is my destiny till my exit. Thanks for being there.
I weep……………….(but then protest the Pink Floyd comment. You introduced me to Floyd and the song Momma has always had great meaning to me, it reminds me of someone I knew once, someone I have missed.)
Mel… actually that’s why I wrote the line. Originally my little remark thing about “Pink Floyd” wasn’t about the songs, or the lyrics or the band Itself, it was about the emotions and memories associated with the moments surrounding the music.
Thanks for coming through, Ancestor. What you’ve written makes a lot of sense to myself or anyone of us recovering from manic depression. If you’re looking for help, or for people who understand what you’re going through, please take a run through my links… I’ve found them invaluable in my recovery and treatment. Plus, there are links and support networks we can offer which could hopefully help you. Most of us have been where you are and having moved through what you’re going through, or being there now, maybe we can help each other. If you’ve got questions or answers please feel free to ask or give them.
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Hi. Ive just started blogging and I believe that maybe bipolarity is not yet accepted as a feasible illness of any kind. I for one feel embarrassed that I have to blame my actions on bipolarity. According to ‘statistics’ bipolar patients in U.S are more likely to be able to make use of the disability act compared to most chronically ill patients but nevertheless more research is required on how to cure bipolar patients. May be a film released on Electroboy will finally begin awareness of this mental illness. Nevertheless I think you are a great writer and I hope to see more of you.
BI POLAR / Manic deprsession does NOT EXIST!!!!!!
I love you all. Here is the truth and I know it’s hard to swollow.
I AM. Think about it. Where did you hear it first?
Now, the Greeks said life is all about balance. It’s written on their greatest buildlings but THEY weren’t sure what it was?
What is balance?
BI POLAR / Manic deprsession does NOT EXIST!!!!!!……..if you know how to BALANCE YOURSELF ( baby ) BI POLAR / Manic deprsession does NOT EXIST!!!!!!
The Romans figured it out in the 2nd or 3rd century. The TRUE lunatics chose to ignore them. That’s ME, that’s YOU if you think you have BI-Polar. ( It’s not a science ).
Michael ( ps get in touch if you don’t want to be crippled by meds………)
Mike, that’s the most retarded comment I’ve ever received… so I’m going to keep it right here so when someone asks me “what’s the most retarded comment someone has ever left on your blog?” I’ll have yours right here to show them. And you know what? They’ll nod their head and say “damn… that’s some retarded shit.”
Wow! All I have to do is tell myself it doesn’t exist and it will all do away! Capital!
I needed to read this. Thanks, I’m going to take my pills now.
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Looks like they’ve found you.
Thank you for this. This is my depression. I look forward to browsing your archives.
Oh, and I’m off to take my pills….:)
Brilliant – just fucking brilliant. Thanks for writing this.
I may be a heathen but that surely deserves a Hallelujah!
I hope you know how much it helps to ‘hear’ these thoughts from the mouth of someone who has been there. I hope it helps for you too.
And gee, isn’t it nice when our lucid moments appear with such crystal clarity, strength and precision? Something along the lines of “a man’s reach must exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”
G…you know that I write with 3 other women at the Bipolar Chicks blog. I have to say that this is one of the very best posts that I have ever read on bipolar disorder. People who do not understand or accept that a loved one has BP should read this post. Simply put…it’s excellent!
Thanks for writing it.
This is brilliant. Keep writing — the truth will out.
Kill the Pink Floyd and Cure, cut out all the depressing books, tv shows you identify with the depressed characters, don’t get into metal, death metal etc… Turn away from the darkness don’t feed it, its bigger than you are and you really don’t want it like you think you do.
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Spent the last 3 hours scouring your blog. It made me weep to find others who share this devastating debilitating experience. Its 8-9-10 today and I start taking lithium for the first time. I feel hopeful and fearful. I fear losing my ability to write songs with meaning and emotion. I fear the day when I want to have a baby. I hope with all my heart that the medicine will soothe my jagged ragged ripped up state of being . . . i know you are at a much different place in your journey, but I have to thank you for this original post and many of the others directly related to the disease.
Thanks M. Your body will adjust relatively quickly to the Lithium, you won’t lose any of your abilities and you might actually gain some clarity. Keep up to date on the blood work to make sure the Lithium is at the proper levels, and make sure to stay hydrated — this is really important. Keep your doctor up to date, but Lithium shouldn’t have any effect on your pregnancy, as long as you do the blood work and drink plenty of healthy fluids.
It might feel like the Lithium is helping right away, but it’ll actually take up to two or three weeks of regular dosing just to get the Lithium to the right levels, then another two months before you start noticing substantial changes. Until then expect to go through the more common side effects of Lithium while also living with the main symptoms of the disease… in other words, things can get worse before they get better.
Also, there’s a tendency for us to feel like we’ve failed if we miss some doses. Just take the next one, that’s all you can do. It took me over a decade to finally start taking them regularly. There is no failing as long as we’re trying.
Good luck M, come back whenever you like.
I agree with most of this but not all. Being bipolar can make us STOP taking responsibility for our actions. EVERYONE should do that. I realise when in our extremes we can’t control ALL we do. And THEN we should not apologise. But other times, when we are more stable and just pissed off at something or in a bad mood, being nasty to or rude to people is still unacceptable. And accepting our mistakes when we make them (just as everyone should do) is healthy for us and the relationships we must nurture in healthier times. I’ve learned this through some pretty hard times. My brother used to beat his girlfriend when manic and jealousy over-ruled him – was that acceptable because he was ill? Of course not. He tortured himself for it on the darker days which inevitably followed. Does that make it okay too – its okay that he hit her because he was ill and now he’s considering killing himself because of the guilt. NO! IT’s shit. I was the first to stand beside him and support him- no matter what – even when he hit me – but he was still wrong to use violence to cope with negative emotions.
We have a responsibility to learn how to BETTER cope with our illness. We may not always be able to, and we will trip up many times. But if only 50% of our behaviour can improve by learning better way to cope with our intense emotional reactions to life stimuli, then the better for us!
Re medication – I’ve recently made the rather radical decision (one it DO NOT advise other to take without support and information) to slowly come off my meds. The long-term health of my body and mind is a major concern of mine and I want to see if, like my bipolar niece, I can live without them. IF not of course I will go back on them again. My life is much more stable and happy than it used to be. I am no longer alone in the world, I have a wonderfully supportive husband and peace in my world. If there was ever a time when I should try this it is now.
Great blog BTW – I do a Monday Madness linky for the mental health blogging community and would LOVE for you to link up your blog weekly so we can share your rather special insights.
Heres the link: . http://wordsinsync.blogspot.com/2011/07/monday-madness-linky-plus-poem-journey.html
Foe me, a therapeutic dose of Lithium was bad. I was taking 600 mg. a day. It did not allow me to fully function as a creative person. 4 years ago, my doctor changed my medication and it has made a tremendous difference. I now take lamictal with just a small amount of lithium (150 mg.)
I am more venerable now. I have had a couple of manic episodes and have found acupuncture has brought me back. (I did not go off of my medications or stop therapy!) I do have to be more attentive to where I am with my moods. It is a small cost to pay of freedom from the muffling effects of Lithium.
I am what they call a ‘rapid’ cycler’ and i was on 1600mg of lithium at one point and still cycling some times several time a day. i had to be taken off my meds because after several years at that level, my body became immune to the lithium and it longer worked. i have been off meds for several years now and i have a feeling i am nearing the end of my un-medicated days. i have been having some scary mood swings lately and the self-harm urges are nearly uncontrollable. i was hoping i would be able to go without being on meds indefinitely but i don’t think that is an option for me….
Thanks for commenting Jo, and welcome to my little blog.
I ain’t no doctor, but I have been a patient for a long time, and I would definitely recommend finding a new way of treating the self-harm issues and, if you feel they’re out of control and doing harm to yourself or others, definitely finding a new way of treating the mood swings.
There is no such thing as a drug, or drug cocktail, that works for everyone the same way… or is effective in the same way and, even if they do work for you, they can lose their effectiveness over the long term. Experimentation is important. If you, and your doctor, feel the lithium isn’t working, try something else. Lithium works extremely well for some, not so much for others, there’s very little middle ground. But there are other medications out there, and other treatment options… although I tend to disbelieve in the boiled stick approach.
The most important thing, the vital thing, is if you’re feeling like you must self-harm, or lack the ability to get beyond your depressions on your own, find a doctor and get into a treatment program.
Thanks again for sharing.
I’ve been coming on here for a couple months. Everytime I get depressed I read this and it makes more sense, but in irony doesn’t help or change the way I think. You can say to yourself a billion times and know for a fact its not your fault but in the end “its your fault and your sorry.” I have two kids and I feel bad when I’m not in the mood to be social with them, (which happens a lot) I’ve had this disease since I was little. And the blog on suicide is right on the money, I think about and everytime I do it does get more serious and real, Im sure if I didn’t have my children I wouldn’t be writing this.